Ours2share's Blog

Hazelwood and Churchill (Victoria, Australia) local Girl Guide information noticeboard.

Life was cheap…food was dear.


The first home to many of the early European settlers, from the tall ships, 200 odd years ago, was a tent in the bush or a wattle and a daub hut. Some lived in caves even trees big enough to burn out a base shelter within.

Gradually, as living conditions improved, the methods of cooking and storage altered too. The cooking area and store area were kept away from the main camp. The cooking area would include a stores area. Food was stored high in trees, in rivers and in caves for coldness. Dry food stores were stored off the ground and as secure as the storage of such could be made. Other camp cooking gadgets assisted in the cooking preparation, serving and storage. These methods of ‘food survival’ have been passed down through many generations of Guiding.  Going on camp reflected the pioneering ways of food storage and cooking.

Initially cooking was usually done on a fire which had two iron bars across the top, where the kettle and the saucepans sat. When times and finances improved and settlers settled in an area cooking was done on a colonial oven which needed a fire under and over the cooking chamber.

The cooking was mainly of Irish, Scottish and English based recipes. Initially the recipes that suited the stomach and life of these European settlers. The meat was what ever could be shot or trapped. In times of extreme need recipes started to become varied as local knowledge and food types were supplemented.  But the tastes were still far from changing.  After all the settlers were British, they were from, and still thought to be part of their “Mother Country”.  Australia was part of the Commonwealth. For the tastes to change many intrinsic changes of mind had to be grown up with.  Change, like technology and knowledge, was gradually coming about. Gas fridges and electricity had not been invented or refined for use after all.

There was a difference between cooking in the capital cities and in the country where supplies had to be brought great distances.

In the outback, bullock teams would transport rations to the homesteads to last six months or more.  Flour was in 150 pound bags, sugar in 70 pound bags and vinegar was in barrels.  (Work it out just over 2 pounds per kilo).

To catch a thief many ways were devised.  Once a sack was opened the cook may have tied the sack up with a “Thief Knot”.  A reef knot tied backwards.

While food was cheap by present day standards – a whole sheep being 4 shillings and 6 pence (45 cents) fowls 4 pence (about 5 cents) – food was highly valued.

So, in those early settlement days of 1853, the physical penalty for stealing 3 pence worth of flour (about 500 grams) was 200 strokes of the lash. The unseen penalty was the family being i=ostricised from the community. Shame and disrepute settled on many families like a yoke ..to heavy to shift, draining the life from the family.  Many of whom disappeared into the bush hoping to disappear and if possible to set up camp else where.

So while life was cheap and food was dear Australia was being ‘discovered’ but the European settlers.  Who in turn forced the life police on to the Australian Aboriginals.  The cycle kept generating.

May 4, 2010 - Posted by | Australia, Australia Day, Uncategorized

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